Wednesday, April 2, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for April 2, 2014: The district would spend an extra $3,000 to $4,000 next year per student if the schools become charter schools. But if parents vote to remain in traditional public schools, there would likely be no additional investment

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for April 2, 2014:
The district would spend an extra $3,000 to $4,000 next year per student if the schools become charter schools. But if parents vote to remain in traditional public schools, there would likely be no additional investment



Hundreds of school building projects on long waiting list for state funding
By John Finnerty Meadville Tribune March 31, 2014
HARRISBURG — More than 200 school building projects are awaiting money from the state — in some cases months and years after they cleared all other hurdles of the state’s approval process.  The state lists 347 projects — worth more than $1.7 billion — somewhere in the planning stages. In 204 cases local officials have cleared each step of the process, except for the final one in which the Department of Education calculates exactly how much it will spend.  Among the projects, one is in Titusville, two are In Mercer County and four are in Erie County.  In many of those cases, construction on the schools is already complete.  The Central Cambria School District — which took out a $7.4 million bond in 2010 to build a middle school annex, expecting help from the state — is among those waiting for money.  “We’d never have done it,” Central Cambria School District business manager Mary Ann Kaschalk said, “if we thought the state wasn’t going to pay.”  The backlog began when schools across the commonwealth scrambled to begin projects while rates were low and contractors eager for work were submitting favorable bids. Then, in 2012, the Department of Education said it couldn’t keep pace with its share of spending and would not reimburse new projects until the process was reformed.
Two years later, the Legislature has yet to come up with a solution, and schools are still waiting to get paid.

West Chester school board OKs new teacher contract
By KENDAL GAPINSKI, kgapinski@dailylocal.com  04/01/14, 8:40 AM EDT |
WEST GOSHEN — The West Chester Area School Board voted to approve a five-year contract with district teachers Monday night, ending more than two years of negotiations.
After union members approved the agreement on Friday at an after-school meeting, the school board scheduled a special meeting Monday night at East High School to vote on the proposal. School board members approved the contract by an 8-1 vote.
The contract will be retroactive to the 2012-13 school year and will last until the summer of 2017, according to school officials.
"McGarrigle is holding a press conference this afternoon to lay out his plan to use a severance tax on natural gas, with those funds earmarked entirely for education funding in the state."
The Heron's Nest: Tom McGarrigle: We Shale Overcome
By Phil Heron, Editor, Delaware County Daily Times   04/01/14, 7:22 AM EDT |
For some reason, I don’t think Gov. Tom Corbett will be on hand for Tom McGarrigle’s press conference today.  McGarrigle is the Republican chairman of County Council who is running for the 26th District state Senate seat being vacated by Ted Erickson.  McGarrigle raised a few eyebrows when he kicked off his campaign by saying he was in favor of a tax on extraction of natural gas from the state’s booming Marcellus Shale region. That is something that Gov. Corbett has opposed. In fact, the governor has gone out of his way to push the idea that the lack of that tax - the state instead instituted a fee - played a role in the state’s economic turnaround.

"That creates a tough choice for families: The district would spend an extra $3,000 to $4,000 next year per student if the schools become charter schools. But if parents vote to remain in traditional public schools, there would likely be no additional investment, officials said."
"….It feels like the district is basically giving up on itself," Gym said. "They don't see themselves as a viable option."
2 Philly schools may become charters, if parents agree
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 5:15 PM
PHILADELPHIA Two public elementary schools in North Philadelphia singled out for their struggling academics are on track to become charter schools in the fall.  Muñoz Marín could be taken over by ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, and Steel Elementary School could become a part of the Mastery Charter organization.  The Philadelphia School District designated both as "Renaissance" schools on Tuesday, meaning that it wants charter schools to turn the schools around beginning in September. It would be the fifth straight year that the district has deliberately shed some of its toughest schools.  But in a new wrinkle, Muñoz Marín and Steel parents will have the final say over whether the schools become charter schools or remain part of the public school system.

"Mastery and ASPIRA, which were among three Renaissance charter operators who responded to a request for qualifications, were chosen based on their proven track records in other district turnarounds, Kihn said. In Mastery's seven Renaissance charters, the percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient on standardized tests in reading and math has increased at least 9 percent. The two Renaissance schools run by ASPIRA have seen test scores rise at least 7.5 percent."  …. Steel, she noted, is Nicetown's only remaining noncharter elementary school. She called it "an injustice" for Steel to be considered low-performing given the school's lack of resources.  "They're taking teachers away, we don't have enough support staff, we don't have enough supplies," she said.
Charter operators slated to take over 2 district schools
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 12:16 AM
TO BE a charter school or not to be: That is the question facing parents in two North Philadelphia neighborhoods during the next month.  As part of an ongoing effort to turn around its lowest-performing schools, the School District of Philadelphia yesterday recommended placing Edward T. Steel Elementary and Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary into the hands of Mastery Charter Schools and ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, respectively. As part of the process this year, parents will vote on whether the schools become Renaissance charters or remain district-run.

"The SAC will vote to make a recommendation during the last week in April, and the parent “elections” on whether to convert each school to a charter will occur on May 1, Kihn said.
Kihn said that each school is in the middle of its own improvement planning, and that those proposals will also be presented before a vote. It is not yet clear whether the schools will get any more resources to implement their own plans if they vote against the charter conversion."
Steel, Muñoz-Marin elementaries chosen for possible Renaissance charter conversion
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 01 2014 Posted in Latest news
The Philadelphia School District is proposing handing over two additional elementary schools to charter operators, assigning Muñoz-Marin to ASPIRA and Edward Steel to Mastery.
If the school communities approve, the two will be the 21st and 22nd low-performing District schools to be converted to charters under the Renaissance turnaround initiative.
This year, for the first time, parents at the schools will decide whether to go through with the charter conversion process. In the past, the District designated which schools would be converted, and the community's role was to decide on a charter provider.

In the past 4 years the Walton Family Foundation has invested well over half a billion dollars to privatize democratically run American public schools, including $2.6 million in 2011 and $1.65 million in 2012 to 50CAN, the parent company of PennCAN, the "think tank" cited in this article.
SCHOOL LEADERS TRY TO KEEP BETTER TABS ON CHARTERS
Philly Trib Live Written by Wilford Shamlin III April 1, 2014
As school leaders take steps to become a stronger authorizer of independently run charter schools, a think tank on Monday commended the effort, but cast doubt on its long-term success.
“They’re having the conversation they should be having,” said Jonathan Cetel, executive director of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now (Penn CAN). “They’re thinking about quality and how they can become a better authorizer. And I respect the process that they’re using to move this forward.”  A quality charter school authorizer supports and monitors existing schools, closes low-performing charter schools, and considers applications for new charter schools that have potential for becoming high performers. Cetel said it’s been four years since the school district accepted the last application for a new charter school.

PIAA plan would limit athletics at charter schools
POSTED: 04/01/14, 5:38 PM EDT |
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A plan that would limit athletic programs at charter schools is getting a cool reception from lawmakers.  The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association told a legislative panel Tuesday that many member schools claim that some charters are using their unique status to build "all-star" boys' basketball teams that public schools can't fairly compete against.  PIAA director Bob Lombardi proposed legislation requiring charter-school students to play on public-school teams in their home districts unless the sport is offered only by the charter school and not by the public school.  Charter-school advocates strongly oppose the idea, arguing that interscholastic sports are part of the learning experience.  Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, who's on the special PIAA panel, says athletics and academics are both important and that students' interests must come first.

Study shows pre-kindergarten attendance creates healthier adults
WHYY Newsworks BY TAUNYA ENGLISH MARCH 31, 2014
Advocates for pre-kindergarten programs have some new evidence to sell the importance of early education.   A new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina shows links between pre-kindergarten enrollment and adult health.  Anne Gemmell, field director for the coalition PreK for PA, said she wasn't surprised to learn about the health benefits even decades later.  "It's beyond reading, it's beyond math. It's about making good life decisions," Gemmell said. "High-quality pre-K can also reduce the effects of toxic stress from abuse and neglect."
Gemmell works for Public Citizens for Children and Youth in Philadelphia, which has received funding from the William Penn Foundation and other groups to raise awareness about pre-K programs.

Special Education Funding Commission Bill HB2138 (O'Neill) introduced in the PA House

Instead of closing neighborhood schools, 'community schools' utilize existing schools as a hub, partnering with non-profits to provide a wide range of remediation, enrichment and health services.
Pittsburgh teachers and officials to explore 'community schools'
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 1, 2014 11:22 PM
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Esposito-Visgitis said she feels "jealous" when she hears of the progress made at community learning schools in Cincinnati.  Next week, about 30 people from Pittsburgh -- including teacher union members, city residents and leaders -- will go to a community schools conference in Cincinnati to see whether ideas from there can be brought here.  Community schools -- called community learning schools in Cincinnati -- use the public schools as a hub for a variety of services for students, families and the community.

Community Schools: The Engine of Opportunity
Join the Coalition for Community Schools in partnership with the Cincinnati Public Schools and the Community Learning Centers Institute for the 2014 National Forum:
Our theme reflects the Coalition's commitment to equal opportunity for all students.  We believe that community schools, with their deep and sustained partnerships between schools and community resources, are the “engine” that will prepare our young people to succeed.
This Forum comes at a key moment in time. There is a growing awareness and discussion of the importance of student engagement in learning, and the influence of out-of-school factors, including poverty on student achievement.
When: Wednesday, April 9 - Friday, April 11, 2014
Where: Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St, Cincinnati, Ohio (513 419 7300)

Residents want Mars Area school board members to continue fighting gas well
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette By Sandy Trozzo April 2, 2014 5:16 AM
Even though members of the Mars Area School Board voted not to allow drilling under district schools, their roles are not done, residents told board members Tuesday.  Residents who are fighting the permit for a gas well on a farm near the campus urged board members to join them.
“The issue is far from over. There is a large group of very dedicated individuals doing everything they can to prevent this from being beside our school,” said Jackie Smathers. “If we had the school board behind us, supporting us, that would be very powerful.”  The school board last month unanimously rejected an agreement to allow Rex Energy to drill under a portion of district property. Rex has applied to put a gas well on property belonging to Kim Geyer, a former school board president. The well will be 0.52 miles from the Mars Area campus. 

"Easton has 169 students enrolled in cyber charter schools, DiVietro said. It costs the district about $10,000 for each regular-education student who attends a cyberschool and about $20,000 per special-education student.  … VLN has a $16,750 upfront fee and then costs $5,000 a year per full-time student."
Easton Area School District officials want to give cyberschool another try
By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times April 01, 2014 at 10:11 PM
Easton Area School District administrators want the district to revive its efforts to establish its own cyberschool.  The Easton Area School District Cyber Academy opened Jan. 28, 2013, through a partnership with VLN Partners, a consortium of schools that Bangor, Bethlehemand Northampton area school districts have joined.  About 28 Easton students enrolled in the cyberschool but officials opted to close it over the summer, said Angie DiVietro, director of teaching and learning.
"We had some complications that we felt we were not able to address so we had to end that," Superintendent John Reinhart said. "We had to regroup."  Officials are again recommending going with VLN for a third- through 12th-grade program. But this time they'd bring in Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 to administer the program in its early years at a cost of $500 a student per semester. Eventually, IU-20 would help transition the school to district control.

Catasauqua to provide students with laptops
By Bill Landauer, Of The Morning Call 11:57 p.m. EDT, April 1, 2014
Members worried about costs, insurance liabilities for parents – even eye strain.  But in the end, the Catasauqua Area school board voted 5-4 at Tuesday's board meeting to move forward with a plan to provide every student and teacher in the high school with a laptop.  Districts such as Salisbury already rent laptops through Apple Financial Services. Catasauqua will lease 581 Macbook Airs for $155,563.52 for four years.  Catasauqua parents who want their child to take a laptop home will pay a $50 fee. Even if they don't pay, students will still have access to a laptop at the school.
Maj. Gen. Daniel J. O'Neill, U.S. Army (Ret.), who lives in Honesdale, Wayne County, is a former superintendent of the Wayne Highlands School District. Brig. Gen. Michael A. Dunn, M.D., U.S. Army (Ret.), who lives in Pittsburgh, is a former commander of the Walter Reed Healthcare System and is a professor of medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Both are members of the Executive Advisory Council for Mission: Readiness.
O'Neill and Dunn: Quality pre-K education puts children on path to success
Morning Call Opinion BY DANIEL J. O'NEILL AND MICHAEL A. DUNN 5:53 a.m. EDT, April 2, 2014
As we all know, 2014 is a major election year in Pennsylvania. On the ballot will be races for the entire state House, half of the state Senate seats and our governor's office. As voters, we have a responsibility to help guide the election debate to those issues that we see as critical to our commonwealth's and our country's future.  As retired Army generals, we believe our candidates for public office must focus on better preparing our youth to be citizen-ready — healthy, educated, law-abiding contributors who are able to serve their nation either in uniform or in the civilian sector.

Why We Need School Boards Now More Than Ever
The key to fixing what ails our education system is more democracy, not less.
Alternet.org March 25, 2014 Campaign for America's Future / By Jeff Bryant
For people who like to think of themselves as being “exceptional,” Americans can sometimes abandon the very principles their exceptionality is founded on.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate of education policy.   A feature that has long made America’s public school system exceptional for sure is its governance through democratically elected local school boards. The way this has been working, according to the National School Boards Association, is that your local school board “represents the public’s voice in public education, providing citizen governance for what the public schools need and what the community wants.”  Any power a school board has is generated through the exercise of democracy. When you don’t agree with decisions made by your board members, “it is your right as a voter to select new board members who will see to it that your students and your schools succeed.”  How American is that?
But now, many of the loudest voices in the nation’s education debate tell us that is completely and utterly wrong.

Some High-profilers Gunning for Common Core
deutsch29 Mercedes Schneider's EduBlog April 1, 2014
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) surely are causing quite a stir. That is what happens when non-teachers try to impose their wills upon the American classroom.  (I have written extensively on CCSS, including its creation, promotion and funding. For hours of enlightening CCSS reading, click here. To read about the contract between states and the federal government regarding CCSS, click here. For a crash course in CCSS lies versus truths, click here. For a CCSS comparison with state standards and NAEP scores, click here.)  Legislatures across the nation are wrestling with the CCSS Question: Dump, modify, or keep as is?  Of particular interest to me are the handful of high-profile individuals who are pushing hard to Keep the Core.  They are not current classroom teachers. They were never career classroom teachers.
In this post, I highlight some such “power people.” I haven’t space enough to write about all persons of influence who are campaigning for the Core. What I aim to capture are those I believe exert the most influence.

New Virginia education superintendent advocated for less testing
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS March 31 at 3:29 pm
The man that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tapped to be the state’s new superintendent of public instruction has been a vocal advocate for reducing the amount of testing required of students as well as creating a new accountability system for teachers and schools.  Steve Staples, a former superintendent of York County schools and faculty member at the College of William & Mary, has been serving as executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. In that position, has has in the past year led a campaign to get school boards around the state to approve a resolution that spelled out ways to reform the current test-based accountability system in Virginia.  The resolutions, passed by dozens of school boards, asked state officials to “create a new accountability system” that “encompasses balanced assessments, reflects greater validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, allows for expedited test retakes, and more accurately reflects what students know.”

American Students Test Well in Problem Solving, but Trail Foreign Counterparts
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH APRIL 1, 2014
Fifteen-year-olds in the United States scored above the average of those in the developed world on exams assessing problem-solving skills, but they trailed several countries in Asia and Europe as well as Canada, according to international standardized tests results released on Tuesday.
The American students who took the problem-solving tests in 2012, the first time they were administered, did better on these exams than on reading, math and science tests, suggesting that students in the United States are better able to apply knowledge to real-life situations than perform straightforward academic tasks.  Still, students who took the problem-solving tests in countries including Singapore, South Korea, Japan, several provinces of China, Canada, Australia, Finland and Britain all outperformed American students.

NPE is going old-school - April mail-in campaign; write your letter to Congress now
On March 2, 2014, The Network for Public Education issued a call for congressional hearings into the overuse and abuse of tests in our schools.
Together, we have managed to catch the attention of Congress, we created a Twitter Storm that sent out over 20K tweets and reached 400K people via social media while trending #1, and the offices of Congress members were flooded with phone calls from concerned constituents. We continue to bring attention to the plague of over-testing and the media is beginning to take notice!
For the next part of our campaign, we’re going old school. During the month of April, we are asking our Friends & Allies to print out and mail a copy of this letter to the offices of our friends at Campaign for America’s Future in Washington D.C.. We will deliver our letters to Congress. Keep an eye out for a date and press conference details!

The Pennsylvania PTA 105th annual statewide convention April 4-6, 2014, at the Radisson Valley Forge/King of Prussia.
Pennsylvania PTA Harrisburg, Pa. March 21, 2014
Delegates from local PTA units, councils, and regions throughout the state will gather to give direction to the State PTA on issues of resolutions, bylaws, and timely topics being addressed around education and child advocacy.  The convention format will include a Diversity Leadership Conference, a Town Hall Meeting on Suicide Awareness and Prevention, twenty (20) workshops on timely issues, networking time with other delegates, an exhibit hall, a Reflections Gallery showcasing student artwork, and the opportunity to hear keynote speakers and representatives from the National PTA and other statewide partnering organizations from Pennsylvania. Complete details for registration may be obtained at the Pennsylvania PTA website at www.papta.org.

The PA PTA is inviting you to attend the Diversity Leadership Conference on Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge, King of Prussia, PA.
Registration for this event is free and open to those caring about diversity in leadership for today’s public schools.   Registration is at 8:30 AM and the session will run from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.    Contact Sandy Zelno, PA PTA Consultant for Media, at sandyzelno@comcast.net or 412-370-6141 for further details.  Why not join your colleagues to hear about programs operating that promote diversity and leadership in today’s schools?    In conjunction with this diversity leadership conference, you will find a host of other activities in conjunction with the PTA’s 105th Annual PTA Convention.   This link not only includes information about the Diversity Leadership Conference and it’s nationally lauded speakers, but about the convention which will deal with issues of Youth Suicide, Military Families in Today’s Schools, School Finance, School Libraries, Testing and Assessment in PA Schools, Advocacy, and Arts in Education--among many other workshops and keynote speakers being featured. 

Education Debate - Pittsburgh, April 8
by Yinzercation March 20, 2014
Please mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of this event:
Democratic candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania
Tuesday, April 8th  at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 515 N. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15206

Sign up for weekly Testing Resistance & Reform News and Updates!
Fairtest - The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

PSBA nominations for offices now open!  Deadline April 30th
PSBA Leadership Development Committee seeks strong leaders for the association
Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to complete an Application for Nomination no later than April 30. As a member-driven association, the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) is seeking nominees with strong skills in leadership and communication, and who have vision for PSBA.  Complete details on the nomination process, links to the Application for Nomination form, and scheduled dates for nominee interviews can be found online by clicking here.
How the Business Community Can Lead on Early Education
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Join business and community leaders to learn about how you can help make sure every child arrives in kindergarten ready to succeed. On April 29th, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will host a forum featuring business leaders from around the country talking about why they’re focused on early childhood education and how they have moved the needle on improving quality and access in their states.
Featured Speakers
  • Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus of The Vanguard Group
  • Phil Peterson, Partner, Aon Hewitt and Co-Chair of America’s Edge/Ready Nation
  • And more to be announced! 
  • Date & Time Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | 5-7 PM
Registration begins at 5 PM; program from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Location Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
10 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106

PILCOP Special Education Seminars 2014 Schedule
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Tuesday, April 29th, 12-4 p.m.
Wednesday, May 14th, 1-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

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